There’s Nothing Wrong!


I will stop trying to fix myself.

I almost screamed this into his voicemail.

Sorry, John, I was a little giddy from lack of sleep, meditating for a half hour at 6 am and having a spiritual conversation with someone before bicycling 8 miles at 8 am around Lake Merritt to go to Alta Summit Bates Hospital.

To get lost.

To get found.

To go, what the fuck am I doing here, and say thank you, I see that it’s working for you, but I gotta go.

I spent the rest of the day in a haze of gratitude, no way, no how, am I going to give up doing my daily writing to put myself through that experience again, instead I spent it gorging myself in an absolute blur of…


Lush, descriptive, well crafted, words.

Words so definitive and enticing that I read 423 pages of them.

In fact, I just put the book down.

Partially to draw out the pleasure, like a good little addict, there’s one really nice fat bump left on the plate before I split the bag with fingernail and dump the crumbs, thrusting the tip of my tongue into the small ziplock bag and then ceremoniously placing the crumbled bit of dead plastic in a tissue to ball up and push down into a public garbage can.

It has been a good, greedy, fat word day for me.

I have been reading The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach.

I first read of him when I was going to Paris.

There was an interesting article in the issue of Vanity Fair I had on the plane with me.  It was about getting agency and the odds of getting paid and published, and it spoke of how often he had to go back and re-work the story, all the bad jobs he worked while he continually wrote and crafted, excised and plucked the words perfumed with story from the heavens over Northern Wisconsin.

There is that too, it’s set in Wisconsin, Northern Wisconsin, but still a Wisconsin that I am familiar with.

One with humidity laced summers so wet with moisture in the air that just sitting still the back of my knees would break out in a rolling sweat.

The swollen sun setting in the thick tall grass, the corn, knee-high (by July) thrust impudent from the black loamy earth in the back corner of my grandfather’s garden in Lodi, Wisconsin.

I know the lure of nostalgia, and that lure is there whispering in the chop of waves breaking against the prow of the ferry-boat ushering picnickers from Devil’s Lake State Park across the Wisconsin River and back to all points Madison, Waunakee (the only Waunakee in the world), Sun Prairie, DeForest, Windsor, and the like.

It spoke to me rash and thick, like the breath on Lake Monona on a day when the high summer heat and the algae bloom have finally banished all thought of there ever having been a snow day on campus, the foetid wash of rot buttering the air like corn at the fair.

I don’t know if it was the book, the blurb, or the first few chapters that sprang up all the Wisconsin imagery, because at times I would get the feeling that I was not reading Harbach, but I was reading A Prayer for Owen Meany or The World According to Garp, it felt almost East Coast in style and feel.

Then like some one wrought homesick for lightning storms and the powdery smell of grass that was cut  wet in the morning to dry all day in the sun, a kind of high summer smell more romantic to me with possibility than perhaps any other smell.

Not that much did ever happen, occasionally a tumble in the orchard or a flirtation at the baseball diamond.

Mostly just me, walking the train tracks, balanced on one rail, feeling the heat bake-off the silca stone gravel heaped along the rails; sensing that there was something being whispered in amongst the snap dragon flowers and if only I could discern the language, break the spell, and tumble forward, I would somehow make it to the far off island, the hillock supporting one spare spreading Oak in the field, that I would cross over into fairy land.

Not that I knew what I wanted, I just had the ache, yearning and tight, that I can still feel– the hand print of it on my person and the wealth of sense knowledge, the pangs of being restless and too smart and not smart enough, wondering how it was that I could discern the shape of pepper and pink in the white clover that studded the field, next to the rich purple heads that seemed more grassy, less floral, and somehow, false.

Or the heavy nodding heads of peonies in the grass.

Florid pinks, fuchsias, punch drunk cream heavy whites with carnations of blood blooms, veins of red that splashed the rumbled edges of petals.

I never like the peonies as much as the other flowers, too much showiness.

Not enough scent.

And that was what caught me.

The scent of story and the bildungsroman of it all, the coming of age, it was Infinite Jest,  the break down of the young tennis pro, without the footnotes, The World According to Garp with its full on love of the coach (wrestling still has not been so wrought with words than that story), it was Updikean and despite wanting to be all things Melville (in scope and lust of detail) where it shone, is still shining, I haven’t finished, leaving those last bits of cake to languish in the frosting where I will lick it off surreptitiously in the dark light of my room while the rest of the house falls asleep, is in the narrative.

It also felt like it was often about to veer off into being overwrought, too many plot twists and turns and overstylization and there were times I thought, nope, no one talks like this, but then something would pop and I would be drawn back in.

I found myself rooting for the story, for the characters.

And though I did see the craft of it and I do believe it a tiny bit overworked, it is a good book.  Perhaps not a great book, but a really good one, one which propels me to do for myself and encourages my own literary dreams.

A book is a book worth its weight when it encourages the vocabulary in my own heart and paints me a picture.

I watched a long movie today, in a book, sequestered at times in the stained glass afternoon light of sun, with a demanding Maine Coon cat on my lap, it will be made movie (I bet the book is optioned already), but I won’t see it, the film so strong in my head.

I love words.

I love to read.

I got my book on today.

It was good.

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